Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Observation and Mythbuster Moments

I have been interested in CAD/CAM for awhile now, and just got a new toy called the Silhouette Cameo Cutter, a digital paper cutter that will cut out your own drawing or designs. One of the most challenging things about working with a clay like medium is precision with delicate or thin pieces. By running thin sheets of clay through the Silhouette as Wanaree Tanner has outlined in her Metal Clay guide for the Silhouette, the possibilities are intriguing!

Ninja star earrings
Pre-made fine silver PMC sheet & ACS paper clay
2 layers, no solder ;)
Materials that can be cut have to be dry but somewhat flexible for clean cuts. For fine silver that means using PMC+ sheet, Art Clay paper, or making flexible clay by adding glycerine to lump clay and drying it.

PMC is thinner, more flexible and feels almost foamy compared to Art Clay Paper. Art Clay Paper is relatively thicker, looks metallic right out of the package and feels like a flat refrigerator magnet.

For this experiment, the clay was only cut once.

PMC sheet stars
Bottom left corner - ACS sandwiched between 2 layers of PMC
Click on photo for more detail
I found that PMC sheet didn't like to stick to the Glad Press N' Seal cling wrap and needed a cover sheet on top to hold the clay in place while cutting per instructions. Art Clay Paper picked up the texture of the wrap and was better mounted directly on the cutting mat or the sticky side of contact paper.

Art Clay Paper picks up texture of the Glad Press N'Seal
Click photo for more detail

Without the top sheet, the surface is untextured
The cut lines are a little more ragged on the edges, but it is easy to clean up
Slowing the cutting speed may help.
Click photo for more detail
I've heard mixed review as far as adding glycerine to lump Art Clay Silver - binder degrading, glycerine sucks moisture out of the clay, and Yes, I've done it!

I started with 10g of fresh clay and thoroughly kneaded 1-2 drops of glycerine into the clay at a time alternating with 1 drop of water. The clay shouldn't look like it is disintegrating, nor be too sticky to roll out. This clay was rolled 2 cards thick and air dried.

Flexible ACS sheet

Each clay has its own characteristics and while PMC+ sheet with PMC+ lump clay would be the easiest to use for compatibility of shrinkage, I like knowing what can be possible if the ideal materials are not at hand.

Additional Reference: Hadar Jacobson's Youtube video on making flexible clay.

If you would like to add to these observations, please share a comment here! Also, check out what other metal clay artists are doing and learning on the MC SILies Facebook page.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The "I" in Artist

The past couple weeks with Artful Success learning about the various hats or mind sets needed to get things done and facing the mental resistance to the fact that something has to be let go of, has finally made me see that the way I view myself could use some adjustment.
I cannot take the "I" out of being an Artist and am finally at a point where I realize this and it has to be ok with me. There is a difference between taking yourself seriously as a business, being too serious about life, and just being down right critical. I'm failing at trying to fail, and need to stop trying to see myself as a failure that will let everyone and myself down.  No matter how much I worry about letting all the wonderful people down that encourage, nudge me along, and just plain kick my a*s into gear, it is up to me to take action so I don't go crazy beating myself up. Or making myself more crazy. It does hurt more than me, and I truly don't want that. 

Ignore the chatter that questions this!
Just Accept it.
And keep moving.

It is deadline time again and I've still got major avoidance issues when it comes to actually sitting down and working without worrying about the outcome. Things usually turn out better than I think and if I have fun making something, other people usually have fun with it too.  I do need to schedule more time for getting lost and figuring things out though.

Someone once said they see me as a little mad scientist making things in my garage.
Finally, presenting myself with confidence and some sense of style?

 Well, I've been assured a hat helps with that too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reflection & Re-commitment

Selection of pieces from figurative sculpture class projects.
Ceramic clay
Michelle Loon

Collage created  on

Sunday, precipice of and old week and beginning of a new one.  Reminders that figurative sculpture class and Artful Success are nearing their official ends has been bittersweet this week. They both have enabled me to challenge myself and given me confidence personally with self awareness and technically as an artist more than I have ever imagined.  For sculpture class, seeing completed class assignments together really has struck me on how much I definitely love sculpting while working with ceramic clay has challenged me to work larger and build fearlessly. Of all the tools that have been shared with us through Artful Success, the most challenging and helpful ones are the least tangible. Seeing the difference between mentally knowing and actually taking the little action steps to shift my mindset to a more positive place; and the importance of breaking down goals to microscopic steps to prevent a constant cycle of overwhelm has been invaluable.

Recently I've mentally been stuck trying to define and explain the inspiration behind the pieces I have made for an artist's statement. I realized there is a disconnect to the pieces I have made and where I want to go as artist.  Instead of trying to define the things I have made (things to amuse myself or explore a technique to teach) - use what I have put together as an artist's statement as a guide to make new pieces that will fit better with things that I want to make. Impatient as I still get to immediately try changing everything once the switch is found for the light bulb in my head, this is just another push to re-commit myself to making time to take action in my pursuit of full time art-dom.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Defining passion

Killer Instinct - Humming bird with human eyes and skeletal hands.
Ceramic clay.
Michelle Loon, 2012
Killer Instinct - Humming bird with human eyes and skeletal hands.
Ceramic clay.
Michelle Loon, 2012

This week my goal had been to distill the seemingly random things that make me tick and fuel the adventurous part of my soul into a concise Passion statement.  During figurative sculpture class, I had a deja-epiphany (the kind where the Aha! moment makes sense, forget the details of the moment, then it pops up again ages later).  All the hobbies or classes I pursue are justification to explore and can be related back to something I have wanted to try in metal clay.  In the figurative sculpture class, the medium we are working in is ceramic clay, which is vaguely familiar yet completely new to me.  I love learning the technical aspects of sculpting realistic figures though as seen with "Killer Instinct," the more creative license I get, the more things end up having some kind of an imaginative twist. The process of creating things is very seductive to my imagination, and sculpting is my way of creating my own reality that can be shared with others.

My passion is to create expressions of motion and emotion through whimsical, wearable art. 
How do you feed your adventurous soul?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: All is One and One is All

Tree of Life bracelet, front
Fine silver with copper and sterling silver chain
Michelle Loon, 2012

This week I finished a Tree of Life bracelet. The friend who requested it for her boyfriend wanted it to have elements that reflected both of their personalities and would fit with the macramé jewelry he makes. He is an earthy type of person and likes the symbolism of the Tree of Life while the swirly branches reflect her aesthetic and spirited personality. On the back, the inscription reads “All is one and one is all.”

Tree of Life bracelet, back
Fine silver with copper and sterling silver chain
Michelle Loon, 2012

The bracelet’s inscription reminded me of the quote Tonya shared with us a quote by Derek Sivers during Artful Success, “how you do anything is how you do everything.” Over the past few weeks, I’ve been battling La Resistance in my head as far as continuing to change my mindset and it took an open clash of wills with my family to really understand what that means for me. I can’t just focus on changing the way I approach art or business. I must cling for dear life to the belief that I can let go of past choices and will not abandon anyone by not meeting other people’s expectations. It is still easy to withdraw into depression mode, but I can’t ignore the fact that really good things are going on around me anymore.

Parents will always worry because they care, and want me to be happy. It will take adjustment for me and my family to retrain ourselves and accept that no matter what I am working on or stumbling over at the moment, I am already a successful artist who wants to continue to push my artistic boundaries and find my niche within the community.

My accountability buddy Stephanie has been encouraging as she has gone through a similar situation with her son. She shared a quote with me from Chariots of Fire (hey, I have actually seen that movie!) and said to put it in an art context: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Yep, that about sums it up!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Being Human

There's nothing to be scared of, you can only fall as high as you can climb up! 
- Advice to new aerial students with a fear of heights.

I was so excited to keep moving forward with the newest Artful Success module this week but over the past few days I have fallen into the rut of beating myself up over things not done, fighting to figure out where my thinking went wrong, and second guessing myself to the point where I would not commit to anything for the next day either.  How is torturing myself, and inadvertently others around me, progress? Some feedback from friends of how I've changed over the past couple weeks: Happier, a bit more productive, excited about projects, and focused on my metal clay future. These, of course, are all good things but quantitatively they are harder to measure.

I still haven't quite figured out how to turn off the sly commentary in my head before it turns into an avalanche, but something clicked today. Hitting this low allowed me to see how much I have learned from this program and that there is an analogy to my aerial exercises. In silks or pole, everyone starts learning to climb on the ground and every time you do it you are able to go up a bit further. As stamina increases, you're able to hold your own weight longer. Whether it is in a controlled, graceful drop or an accidental tumble, you're at the bottom again and need to go back up for the next trick. Following through with a motion is important visually, but plans literally can be changed in the air without anyone being the wiser. Now I know if I can't avoid a drop, at least I can gracefully control my descent.

Finally, for a bit of lighthearted pole dancing (something that I also dabble in) humor on perspective, check out my friend Leen Isabel's webcomic post: The floor is closer than it appears.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: An Aha! moment

Work in Progress

This semester I'm enjoying taking a figurative sculpture class at a local community college.  Our latest project involves interaction of hands in ceramic clay. At one point our professor demoed how to make fingernails by pressing and almost flicking away clay with the edge of a flexible potter's rib to create the nail bed. I admit I cringed every time I saw a piece of clay go flying thinking about what if I did that while working with metal clay. After watching me attempt to create nails with the rib, he said, "why don't you use the needle tool?" D'oh, of course!  In general I've tried to stick to the techniques we're using in class as maybe there will be something new I can take home with me. In this case I went home wondering about what kind of "bad" clay habits I've acquired without realizing it or so far haven't questioned.

With the little bit of clarity from sculpture class, I'm more motivated to keep cleaning my work area and figure out my optimum table set up. The new start for the next batch of projects is my fuel to start experimenting as I know there are other opportunities that will pop up before the next deadline too.

Other than that, my sculpture now has a pretty good manicure if I don't say so myself!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Published Project!

I am excited to receive the newest issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine this weekend as it has one of my projects published inside! Kind of surreal, but in a nice way. 

Bird's Nest Bezel Bracelet
Michelle Loon, 2011

Going through the editing process with Margaret Schindel was really enjoyable and I've learned a lot about how my regular class instructions could improve too.

Thank you to Jeannette LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and rest of the MCAM team for all the work they put into each magazine!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Target: Routine

Aerialist on silks
Digital painting
Nguyen Dong, 2008

Over the past couple years I have taken silks, lyra/hoop, static trapeze, flying trapeze, and pole dancing classes.  Discovering what one's body is capable of is such an exhilarating feeling! As much as I adore aerial arts and look forward to taking classes again soon, my obsession with metal clay comes first. What does being a circus monkey have to do with jewelry making?  Both require the right mindset and having a disciplined practice routine to get off the ground.

Whether it is a physical trick or art technique, I have to keep telling myself reading is one thing and actually sitting down to create something with it is another. With a goal of establishing new habits and to get myself to be productive a little bit every day after getting home from the day job and/or school, here are my observations for the week.

Journal affirmations - Taking the time to journal each night and set intentions for the next day really makes a difference on the next day! I wake up more alert in the morning and am able to hold a positive mindset better.

Warming up - Do you have a routine when sitting down to create? Similar to stretching before attempting the splits, working on drawing assignments right before class has helped me focus during sculpture class.  I've been able to identify a couple triggers that help me shift into "work" mode, and a couple things that mean I'm overwhelmed, but I'm still trying to figure out my ideal warm up for clay as sometimes that leads to over thinking things.  Maybe I'll try using a timer.

Timers - Much as I hate to be told what to do by a clock, I admit they work!

Accountability Buddy - My "Spotter" for Artful Success is Stephanie Maben of Stephanie Maben Jewelry! She is such an enthusiastic person to work with and makes gorgeous jewelry with natural cabochons!

Mindset - I'm in a better spot mentally today than last week, but trusting myself is a giant elephant for me to tackle.  Near my desk there is a collage from an aerial recital that proves at some point I trusted myself to do a trick in the air and let go of my hands.  To bring that mentality back to my clay, no additional thinking, just doing. And take pictures. No pictures, it didn't happen!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday's Target: Vision

Stock photo from

I went to the eye doctor this week as it has been hard to read signs while driving. When the doctor checked my glasses, he found one lens was made to account for astigmatism while the other one wasn't. Really? Still, he said my vision is stable and with a little adjustment to the lens prescription, I should see a huge difference in clarity. Wouldn't it be nice if clarity in all aspects of life were so easy to find and correct?

This week my goals for Artful Success included writing down the answers to goal setting questions and making flowcharts for projects. Seems pretty straight forward. What really has been a challenge is understanding what is going on in my head to make this so difficult. I understand concepts and can verbally answer questions, but when it is time to write or make something, I get so stuck over thinking things, I don't even realize I'm doing that. As I've been reminded by multiple sources recently, planning is useful but at some point you need to jump in and see what neat things come out of it. Usually the outcome is much more positive than I think.  Hey, long term goal! (and this is in writing)  => Embrace a creation (creative) mindset and let go of worry.

From last week, I have continued cleaning and purging stuff to make my workspace more conductive to working on projects. It feels good to get rid of things that I've been hauling around for a couple years and abundance has come to fill that void in the form of validation! The store I regularly teach at, Brea Bead Works, had their Registration Day on Saturday and metal clay classes were really well received.  I have 2 sold out classes for the next session and a couple friends asked me about jewelry requests, sweet!

One more big thing I don't think I mentioned specifically in my last post of gratitude is that I was chosen as one of the recipients for Tonya Davidson's Artful Success Scholarship! Part of the program is to update weekly progress. To help me do that, Thursdays will be my days to blog and recap my week.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Commiting to Action

What is the best way to eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

Since the beginning of the month I have been writing down, scratching out, and staring at a list of class projects to submit to the store I regularly teach at. However, it has been really hard to pin myself down and honestly ask why I procrastinate with my project proposals.  
 What if the projects are not "good enough"?
This past week I started Tonya Davidson's Artful Success program. While it can be daunting to employ any new system of project organization, I instead find myself completely overwhelmed with gratitude. This comes with the realization of just how much emotion I subconsciously attach my projects. One thing Tonya suggested this week that resonated with me is, "Commit without emotional attachment". Does project exploration need emotion? Not really. The important thing is a successful project outcome. Being able to show a technique and seeing a student's face light up when they can do it themselves is a definite bonus. My friend has dubbed me the "Bag Lady" as I tend to bring everything with me to class. I realize this happens mentally also. I want to let go of the "worst case scenario" and "the ghosts of fumbled things past" baggage so I can conduct my classes calmly and with confidence.

Looking back at the things I've managed to accomplish, what has really blown my mind is all the wonderful people who have been so supportive with gifts of advice and opportunities. This encouragement has been keeping me aloft, even as I avoided believing that I could do what I truly want to do. That is, one day make art full time. I hope they will know how grateful I am and that I am ready to believe in myself. I am committed to a plan of action. As far as those class projects go, they will be tackled one bite at a time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Declaration of Art

The New Year means making plans, new goals and looking back on how far you have come from the previous year. In the past, the last part usually makes me frustrated to revisit where I have been stuck in cycles of negative thinking on what I haven’t done well enough, and that has resulted in some fairly self destructive actions. While there isn’t anything I can do to completely undo that damage, except thank the friends and family who continue to be supportive of my pursuit of art.  My Resolution for this year is to stop being self destructive and channel that energy more productively, so here is my plan.

I have been blessed to have a place to teach at in Brea BeadWorks for all the wonderful people I have met there. Coming up with new projects every quarter gives me an excuse to try out different techniques I wouldn’t ordinarily take time to try myself. As mental/visual inspiration for projects his year, I am putting a list of my students above my desk because they are the reason I teach. Schedule 1 Project day every quarter with my friend and fellow instructor, as 2 heads are better than one for motivation and hashing things out!

4PAM – 4 Projects a month
In order to feed the creative beast of teaching projects, joining the 4 Projects A Month (4PAM) group on Flikr will help me make time for my own “pet projects.” After talking with Michael Sturlin last summer, I realize I haven’t taken the time to understand and explore an artistic body of work.  There are techniques that I have taught and want to revisit, which is my focus for January.

I have had good feedback working with the Creative ArtsGroup gallery and their art shows last year.  I hope to have distinct art jewelry pieces for them this year, instead of a collection of shiny random things.

Online life
Blogging at least once a week for 4PAM is my goal to get comfortable with writing and promoting my art by “putting myself out there with my slutty skirt on” as a friend had so cheerfully put it! ;) 

Ok, time to go clay as I do need something for this week's project!